What Are Your Chances When You Apply for Social Security Disability
All claims for Social Security disability benefits are fact dependent, that is they are specific to each indivdiual's particular set of circumstances. I have two rules for clients, "when in doubt, apply" and "when in doubt about appealing, appeal." Some recent nationwide statistics from the Social Security Administration show that in general: a) Initial Applications are denied approximately 65% of the time and these take 3-4 months on average, and less than 20% of the individuals who are denied bother to appeal their decision (forfeiting potential benefits and delaying the date they may actually be awarded benefits.) b) Requests for Reconsideration (the first appeal) are denied about 78% of the time and these also take 3-4 months, and more than 85% of inidividuals appeal the denials at this stage. c) Hearings before a Social Security ALJ (the second appeal) are approved about 65% of the time - the wait to get to a hearing varies greatly depending on which hearing office you are dealing with (they time varies from 10 to 24 months), in our area the current wait is approximately 16 months (it has been as high as 25 months in the past five years).
d) Appeals Council Review - for those folks denied by an ALJ, they may appeal to the agency's Appeals Council, sadly more than 90% of the time the Appeals Council agrees with the ALJ and declines to order the ALJ to redo the hearing. These reviews can take 12 months or more to conclude.
e) Federal Court lawsuit - at this point, a denied individual's only option is to file in federal court for the district in which the individual lives - the standards and costs are significantly higher for an individual to pursue Social Security benefits in federal court - though in select cases it may be a worthwhile endeavor. These cases may take 9 to 18 months to move through the court system.
In my opinion you should get an attorney as early in the process as possible as the fees are set by Social Security law and would be the same regardless if you hire the attorney the week before your hearing or the day you applied originally.